NHL looks into changes for 2015-16

ByKatie Strang ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL may introduce both 3-on-3 play during overtime and the availability of a coach's challenge as early as next season.

Both items gained traction and support during this week's general managers meetings here.

Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed both changes have the potential to be implemented for the start of the 2015-16 season, though the rules must be approved by the NHL's competition committee.

Bettman said the league will present two different formats for the overtime change, one of which would mirror the new AHL rule where teams play 4-on-4 for the first three minutes and then -- following the first whistle thereafter -- go to 3-on-3 for the remainder of the seven-minute period.

The other option is to play 3-on-3 for an entire five-minute period.

"That's something we're going to discuss with the competition committee because, obviously, we want the players' association input on how we're going to approach it," Bettman said Tuesday. "So we're going to look at both variables and figure out which one, collectively with the competition committee, we think makes the most sense. Then ultimately, it's subject to Board Of Governor approval."

The key, Bettman said, is not to eradicate the shootout, but to reduce the number of games decided by the shootout -- as the AHL model has successfully done.

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has been a longtime advocate for change in this area, and he helped spearhead an effort to advance the debate this week. He polled other GMs on their opinions and researched the effects of the method in other leagues, both in the AHL and abroad.

"I'm good with both," Holland said. "I think in both cases, what we're trying to accomplish is take where 40 percent of our games are decided in overtime and 60 percent in shootouts -- ideally we'd like to switch those numbers.

"We still want shootouts; we think fans like shootouts. But we're trying to get more games decided playing hockey in overtime."

With expanded video review and goaltender interference expected to be a hot topic at these meetings, the group tackled the subject with the idea of the coach's challenge.

If implemented, a coach would have the right to challenge goaltender interference calls on potential goal-scoring plays.

During a challenge, officials will have access on the ice -- and communication with the situation room with Toronto -- to see whether or not there was a better call to make.

A coach may only use his challenge if he has a timeout available. If the challenge is successful, the coach would keep his timeout. If the call was not overturned, he would both lose his timeout and the ability to challenge again during that game.

"The purpose of this is we don't want everything being reviewed," Bettman said. "Overwhelmingly, the calls are right. We only want it done in an egregious case."

Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said he's been pushing for this for years and has seen drastic change in the type of support he has received on the issue.

Four years ago, the idea was voted down 28-2. Tuesday, the vote was 29-1 in favor.

"It's about time," Tallon said.

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was happy to see progress made on both issues.

"On both fronts, the coach's challenge and the goalie interference situation, getting more information to get it correct I think is a great thing," he said. "It's taken a couple years to get to this point, but I think it's very favorable."

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